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The Pearl and the Stone

Natural pearls are rare things of beauty, requiring a precise confluence of events to be possible at all. The process begins when an irritant – like a grain of sand – slips into the oyster’s shell. At this point in the process, it is very hard to imagine that the grain of sand could ever become anything more. However, as a defense mechanism, the oyster coats the irritant repeatedly with a substance called nacre and, over time, layers build. After many months of this the grain of sand is transformed, turning an existential threat into one of the world’s most prized possessions.

In many ways, the young women in our job training program undergo a similar process. Faced with immense challenges like poverty and homelessness, they commit to an intensive program that empowers them to transform adversity into a source of strength. Many participants enter the program having never held full-time jobs before, and are without the skills and confidence needed to do so.

The job training program addresses this over the course of 16 weeks through a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training at our social enterprise candle company, Bright Endeavors. At the beginning of the process, program staff work with participants to build trust, break down walls and form a sense of camaraderie within the job training cohort. Over time, each young mom builds layer upon layer of additional skills as they are coached on topics like proper professional conduct, preparing for interviews, crafting the perfect résumé, conducting quality control and working effectively on a team, among many other things.

As these skills accumulate and confidence grows, participants undergo a process of transformation that equips them to achieve and retain permanent employment. At the end of each 16-week program, we commemorate this transformation with a milestone celebration during which each young mom is reminded that while life brings many challenges, these challenges can produce strength and beauty with hard work and determination. Each participant receives a stepping stone with their name on it that is placed on a wall in our headquarters. As the job training program is a stepping stone for them, they are a stepping stone for other young mothers who wish to provide their children with a better life. Each celebration is also themed around one of our core values: love, grit, hospitality, empowerment, and possibility. Every graduating mother is given a gift symbolizing that core value to encourage them throughout their professional journey.

Last year, with your support, 80 young moms found permanent employment and 81% retained employment for 12 months. We are extraordinarily proud of each of them for embracing the process, and grateful that they now serve as examples of the change that is possible for other young moms at the beginning of their journeys.

To learn more about how the job training program transforms the lives of participants, we encourage you to read about Debrea and Olivia.